Tonight, Sarah Palin was sharp, articulate, and connected with the middle class. The #1 political effect tonight will have is an important one for the McCain campaign: she shut the doubters up, and then some. In this important sense, she stopped the bleeding. I suspect that a very tough couple of weeks ends tonight, and it will be up to John McCain to get the comeback going next Tuesday.
Conservative weak sisters like Kathleen Parker and David Brooks can turn their pens in another direction. Tonight, they've been silenced. At the convention, I wrote this about Palin and the GOP establishment pundits and consultants:
But the fact still remains that if you are thrilled about Palin, you have a grassroots sensibility. If you are not, you have an elite/establishment sensibility. The delegates on the floor are the grassroots. Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan are the elite. The dividing lines have always been there, but Palin provides the ultimate litmus test. ...
Palin injected a badly needed jolt of people power into the campaign. The maverick spirit is not gone. It's been reinforced in some key ways. McCain is still the same bipartisan guy he always was -- but Palin provides the grassroots with a reason to crawl on glass to make the phone calls and knock on doors and get out the vote. We didn't have that before. We have it now. Polls don't completely factor it in -- and the establishment tends to discount it as playing to the base. But it is the dark matter of campaigns -- that stuff that gives the campaign a good vibe that lets it put its best foot forward.
Last night represented a triumph of grassroots politics in a campaign we thought had left it for dead. And just as with Republican icons before, the establishment will once again be proven timid and wrong.
A major contributing factor to conservative despair these last two weeks is that the fear that the Palin choice would be defined as a warped historical error. Conservative and grassroots leverage over the party would be gone, at least for the foreseeable future. Sarah was our gal, and if she messed it up, it would be a long time before the conservative narrative about the future of the GOP would be trusted again. Meanwhile, conservatives were being asked to depart from principle in supporting the bailout. It was a wrenching and sobering couple of weeks.
Just as with her brilliant RNC speech, Palin did not let us down. And once again, she becomes the hope of the ticket and a standardbearer for the young guns who include Jindal, Portman, Cantor, McCarthy, Ryan, and many more.
Palin can no longer be defined as a liability in any meaningful political or analytical sense. Her claim to leadership in the next Right stands stronger than ever.